We know Rhea Seehorn as the unflappable Kim Wexler of Better Call Saul, a performance for which she deserves to have been nominated a hundred times over (okay, it’s more like five, for the five seasons of the show so far). Her newest TV role does share some traits with Kim: As Debbie Harper of The Harper House, Seehorn has to keep it together while the world she knows crumbles around her and her charming but ineffectual partner is charming but ineffectual.
Brad Neely’s adult animated comedy, which premiered September 16 on Paramount+, is obviously much more light-hearted than Peter Gould and Vince Gilligan’s AMC drama, but Debbie and her family still face the kind of reversal of fortune that sent the Rose family packing to Schitt’s Creek in the first season of that Pop TV show. The Harper House shares the quirky sweetness of Schitt’s, while establishing a family dynamic all its own. Debbie is a working mom who, after she loses her engineering job, must move with her husband Freddie (Jason Lee) and twins Todd (Ryan Flynn) and Ollie (Tatiana Maslany) get accustomed to life in the more “rundown” part of town. Her family remains pretty supportive and abiding, but Debbie is convinced she can turn things around with just one “Shark Tank-like” idea.
Debbie gets her shot in the fifth episode, titled “Baby Talk/Coupon Kid,” which sees her tackling a presentation in her father’s place. See, Debbie comes from the awning business—specifically, one called A New Day Is Awning, which is a delightful pun, but not really Debbie’s style. As an engineer, her focus is on utility and form, not so much what it takes to convince retailers to carry their product. So, even though she has a great idea for an awning that adjusts with the sun, her terse delivery fails to impress.
When she gets to play up Debbie’s impatience with those less competent than she is, Seehorn looks—er, sounds— as formidable as ever in The Harper House. But she also gets to play a very broad character, the kind who’d think of a double entendre about “cheeks,” while instantly being mortified by her wordplay. The supporting cast, including Lee and Maslany, are equally game, which helps smooth over some of the rougher patches in the storytelling. But The Harper House quickly proves an endearing little comedy.
The Harper House’s “Baby Talk/Coupon Kid” hits Paramount+ on September 16.